Hafnarfjörður to Pay Childcare Stipends to Parents, Increase Wages for Childminders

A woman walking two young children through the snow

Parents of children a year and older in the town of Hafnarfjörður may now apply to receive a monthly childcare stipend from the local government, mbl.is reports. These payments are equal to those made to professional childminders, or “day parents,” and are intended to allow parents stay at home with their children longer, therefore bridging the gap between when their parental leave ends, and preschool begins. The town has also approved higher hourly rates for day parents, as well as the establishment of a special fund that will provide grants for day parents who have been municipally employed for at least a year. The Hafnarfjörður town council approved the measures, effective retroactive to January 1, at its recent meeting.

In Focus: The Preschool System

Day parents are self-employed professionals who are licensed by, and receive work permits from, municipal authorities. These individuals care for children who are either too young to enter preschool, children who are still on the waitlist for a place in the overcrowded pre-k system, and/or children who simply need a smaller, more personalized environment. Licensed day parents generally look after small groups of young children in at-home settings.

In its announcement about the new measures, the Hafnarfjörður town council said it believes that new parents need a wider variety of practical solutions for childcare and is looking into such options as extending parental leave and creating more choice within the pre-k and day parent systems. The town, which has a population of just over 29,700 people, currently has just 26 licensed day parents.

Day parents ‘an important pillar of childcare system’

Hafnarfjörður appreciates that “day parents are an important pillar of the daycare system,” and the town hopes to recruit more qualified individuals to the profession. Day parents who have worked for Hafnarfjörður for a minimum of 12 months can now apply for a grant of ISK 300,000 [$2,105; €1,944]. Hourly wages for day parents will also increase from ISK 8,433 [$59; €55] to ISK 12,800 [$90; €83] an hour.

The council also seeks to better support low-income families and families with multiple young children. Low-income parents can apply for additional subsidies, for one, and ‘sibling discounts’ are available for siblings who go to the same day parent, preschool, or after-school program. The second child receives a 75% discount on fees and the third 100%.

In Focus: The Preschool System

iceland preschools

A rocky startAn announcement on the City of Reykjavík website advertises employment at the city’s many preschools. In addition to the rewarding work of childcare, benefits such as free lunch, a shortened work week, a swim pass, and prioritised placement for one’s own children on preschool waitlists are all enumerated. On paper, this sounds like […]

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Reykjavík Preschool Staffing Shortage Leaves 90 Positions Unfilled

reykjavík leikskóli preschool

In the latest numbers from RÚV, around 90 positions need to be filled before Reykjavík preschools can be considered fully staffed. Approximately 500 children aged 12 months and older remain on waitlists in Reykjavík City alone.

Continue reading: Almost 700 Children Waitlisted for Reykjavík Preschools

Hjördís Rut Sigurjónsdóttir, Information Office for the Department of Education and Recreation at City of Reykjavík, has stated that filling the vacant positions has so far gone more smoothly than expected, with around 95% of full-time vacancies filled. Nevertheless, many children still remain on waitlists throughout the city, with 478 children 12 months and older and 48 children 18 months and older still waiting on placements.

Not limited to the capital region, all of Iceland is experiencing something of a preschool crisis at the moment. Due to recent population growth, however, the problem is most keenly felt in Reykjavík and surrounding settlements. Traditionally, municipalities have accepted children into the preschool system starting at 18 to 24 months. Recently, there has been a push in the City of Reykjavík to start accepting children already beginning at 12 months into the system, to bridge the gap between parental leave and the preschool system. While the 12 month target was a much-requested concession for working parents, the preschool system has had to cope with much higher numbers this year, leaving many children stuck on waitlists.

Continue reading: City Council Introduces Proposals to Address Preschool Crisis

In a statement to RÚV, Hjördís said: “Recruitment for the kindergartens is going beyond expectations and it is clear that the actions taken by the City of Reykjavík have yielded results, such as advertisements and a new application website.”

Despite the progress made, many parents feel that not enough is being done to address the problem, with some having to resort to private daycares or else reduce their rate of employment to care for their children.

This August, working parents staged a demonstration at Reykjavík City Hall, turning the building into a sit-in daycare. The protest was an attempt to force action from a City Hall that they saw as doing little to care for their children.

So far, Reykjavík City has pledged to expand capacity through construction of new preschools and expansion of existing facilities. However, critics say the expansion of facilities cannot address the fundamental staffing shortage and that deeper changes in the education and remuneration of preschool teachers must be made.